Printing from Adobe Illustrator (quality is terrible)

Posted on 2012-09-11
Last Modified: 2012-09-14
Hey guys,

I'm trying to print some small labels about 0.625" in diameter from Adobe Illustrator CS. I'm using a logo that was made with Illustrator and looks excellent on screen.

The issue I'm having is that, when I print it looks terrible. The lines are jagged and it's pretty blurry.

I'm assuming that I must be missing something.

I'm trying to print from a Dell 2130cn Color Laser Printer. The specs say that it can do up to 600DPI. I know it can print much sharper than what I'm seeing... I just do know what settings to adjust to get it to print correctly from Illustrator.

I've also tried exporting to a PDF but still, the quality is pretty poor.
Question by:mcainc
    LVL 6

    Expert Comment

    In Print properties> go to size option nd select shrink oversized pages.iN orientation> auto portrait/landscapse
    LVL 26

    Accepted Solution

    Hi mcainc!

    Adobe Illustrator was created as a program for illustrators to use to prepare artwork for commercial printing presses. Although many, many improvements have been made over the years, the Illustrator team still has never grasped the idea that a great many of us want to output artwork to desktop printers. They certainly don't make it easy.

    You don't mention what settings you are using to send your files to your printer, so I may be telling you to do what you are already doing. If so, let me know and we will pick up from there.

    I don't want to bore you with the details, but Illustrator output is in PostScript language and your Dell printer does not understand PostScript commands.

    No matter, Illustrator has a rudimentary RIP built in to do the translating for you, but sometimes the program complains when you try and use it.

    When you go to File>Print (or CMD+P) the print dialogue panel opens to the General settings. Here you select your printer. You can pretty much ignore all of the other settings, which have to do with settings for a PostScript printer or RIP.

    Next, in the bottom left-hand corner is the button that says Setup... When you press this, Illustrator may warn you of the dire consequences of altering these settings and suggesting that you limit yourself to the settings on the main page.

    Be brave and proceed. There you get to select your printer again, and press the Preferences button, the print driver dialogue from you printer appears. THIS is where you want to make the settings for your printer.

    Now let's suppose that you've already done all of that and you are not getting the results that you want. I'm afraid that I've got some sad news. That may be as good as you can get.

    Consumer laser printers do not print as sharp a detail as inkjet printers. Your Dell has a color resolution of 600 dpi, however that is 150dpi for each color. The average photo has a full range of colors, so the mix of magenta, cyan, yellow, and black all work together to make a 600 dpi image. However, if you are using strong solid color that are close to the primary CMYK colors, and your subject mater involves curves or shapes at an obscure angle to the printing head, you may not have the resolution for as sharp of an image as you may want.

    What's more, the driver in Illustrator does not do as good a job at anti-aliasing as a program such as Photoshop. Anti-aliasing is the method of blending two colors together to fool the eye into thinking a curve or angle is smoother than it actually is.

    There are two things that you can try to see if it helps make your image smoother. One is to go back to the opening print dialogue panel and instead of General, select Advanced. There locate and put a check in the box that says "Print as bitmap."

    The other method is to export the artwork as a tiff and print the tiffs from a program such as Photoshop or a Freeware program like Gimp.

    Very best of luck, and let me know the results.

    Author Closing Comment

    Thank you for explaining everything! I was able to print a much better quality version by actually exporting it to PDF and printing from Acrobat. Your solution guided me in the right direction.

    Still not as sharp as I'd hoped, but MUCH better than before. It appears the rest is just a limitation of my printer.
    LVL 26

    Expert Comment

    by:David Brugge
    > It appears the rest is just a limitation of my printer.

    About halfway through the answer I gave, I remembered that I was called upon to do some small labels on the companies color laser printer. I remember that I worked and worked with that thing before I came to realize that I just wasn't going to get the detail from a laser that I would from an inkjet.

    Glad to hear you found a suitable solution.

    Author Comment

    I always thought laser printers were better than inkjets.

    Is there an reasonably priced inkjet printer that you could recommend taking a look at? The labels I'll be printing all follow the same template, however the colors on them will change depending on the product purchased. For instance, one label may have blue and yellow in it and the next one might have pink, red, and gold, and the next one black and orange, etc.

    I'd really like to take control of this versus outsourcing it to a 3rd party printing company.
    LVL 26

    Expert Comment

    by:David Brugge
    The downside of printing with inkjets is the dang cost of the ink. That is where, historically, laser printers had the advantage. This has all changed lately in that manufacturers have learned that they can make smaller toner cartridges and fill them with little of no ink and charge a fortune as well.

    The other advantage has been the water resistance of the ink, however inkjets have become much better resistant to moisture once they dried.

    At work, we joke that it is much more economical these days to buy a new inkjet and throw it away after it runs out of ink. It is a fact that you can buy a new printer for less than the cost of a full set of cartridges.

    If speed of printing and paper size is not an issue, I would buy the least expensive printer that I could. They almost all have the same print head and delivery mechanics (within individual brands) as the more expensive printers (in the consumer line). Be sure to buy one with individual color cartridges.

    If you think you will be doing high volume printing, I have had very good luck in the past with a Continuous Ink System such as:



    In fact, Epson has smelled the coffee and come out with their own:

    Author Comment

    Thanks a ton!

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